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Rochester Museum and Science Center Expansion

October 15th, 2014

The Rochester Museum and Science Center is planning an expansion to link the main museum building on East Avenue with the Strasenburgh Planetarium next door.
By Mike Governale

Rochester Museum and Science Center external link is planning an expansion to link the main museum building on East Avenue with the Strasenburgh Planetarium next door. The $7 million project will be paid for with the help of private donations and a variety of grants.

Now, most people seem to agree the link between the two buildings is greatly needed. However, since renderings were released last spring, the design aesthetic has been a hotly debated topic…

How do you successfully connect two historic buildings, each with very distinct architectural styles? Many people feel that the proposed solution from Labella overpowers the planetarium.
The first design (above) put forth by RMSC and Labella Associates external link in the spring and again in September was turned down by the Preservation Board, saying the new addition was “too strong” and should not compete with the existing buildings, rather it should be as transparent as possible.

So the question was, how to successfully connect two historic buildings, each with very distinct architectural styles, while not detracting from either of them. Labella went back to the drawing board and came back on October 1 with this…

Revised concept for the Rochester Museum and Science Center expansion after the Preservation Board denied Labella's first plan.

Revised concept for the Rochester Museum and Science Center expansion after the Preservation Board denied Labella's first plan.

Revised concept for the Rochester Museum and Science Center expansion after the Preservation Board denied Labella's first plan.

Revised concept for the Rochester Museum and Science Center expansion after the Preservation Board denied Labella's first plan.

Revised concept for the Rochester Museum and Science Center expansion after the Preservation Board denied Labella's first plan.

Revised concept for the Rochester Museum and Science Center expansion after the Preservation Board denied Labella's first plan.

Revised concept for the Rochester Museum and Science Center expansion after the Preservation Board denied Labella's first plan.

Eh. I’d give it a “E” for effort. This one may not be detracting too much, but it certainly isn’t winning any awards for creativity.

I’m not sure if the Preservation Board has made it’s decision yet, as nothing has been posted to the City’s web site. But while we wait for a verdict,

Just posted to the City’s web site after this article was posted, the Preservation Board HAS decided to approve the building addition. The fountain, plaza, and restaurant will be decided on at a future meeting. In any event…

I wanted you to see a third concept external link from SWBR Architects.

This one was NOT chosen by RMSC. Check it out…

Rochester Museum and Science Center expansion. Concept by SWBR Architects.
The building appears to gently lift up out of the earth like tectonic plates! Very poetic – and quite brilliant. The gradually sloping green roof is almost undetectable from the front.

The building appears to gently lift up out of the earth – it's gradually sloping green roof is hardly noticeable from the front.

A waterfall would cascade down the front of the incline, down from a giant multimedia screen.

The view from above.
The most indication that this is even a building at all comes when viewed from the rear.
The most indication that this is even a building at all comes when viewed from the rear.

My guess is this concept may have been too pricey for RMSC. But as the adage goes, you get what you pay for. If I were king of the science museum, I would have sprung for this one.

Thanks to Christopher Brandt and Matthew Denker for help with this post!

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 at 9:48 pm and is filed under Art + Culture, Opinion, Rochester Destinations, Rochester News, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

10 Responses to “Rochester Museum and Science Center Expansion”

  1. Christopher Brandt says:

    The city just posted the decisions. They have approved the design of the gateway building, but have request further review of the raised terrace at the Bausch Building (museum) and the fountain court/raise grade leading to the planetarium.

    http://www.cityofrochester.gov/WorkArea/linkit.aspx?LinkIdentifier=id&ItemID=8589963023&libID=8589963008

  2. Having hosted TEDxRochester last year, I had the marvelous opportunity to spend a lot of time with the folks there. I’m going to have to lend credence to the “we couldn’t afford it” reasoning. Unfortunately, not enough people are interested in science anymore. 🙁

    Regardless of what happens, I hope Carl is given a prominent place in the new area when they retire him.

  3. Tony, that’s insanity. More people than ever before are interested in science. What people may not be interested in is visiting the same tired exhibits in a dusty museum over and over again. RMSC needs to keep reinventing themselves in order to bring the people. I know that’s not an easy thing and it certainly takes big bucks at times. But “not enough people interested in science” cannot possibly be the reason why the museum chose this design. If that were true, they wouldn’t be making this investment at all.

  4. Yeah, going to have to agree to disagree with you on that one. Considering in the US more and more people are choosing to reject basic science like evolution, refuting climate change, refusing vaccinations for their children, and picketing to protest GMOs…there’s a very downward trend in science literacy. Hell, the current panic over Ebola is an excellent example of how far divorced from reality the American populace is in general.

    The money the RMSC uses to rebuild those displays comes primarily from admissions. I don’t disagree that most are in need of a refresh or repair, but they just don’t have the funds to do it. I’ll also agree that I’m not sure why they’re investing in this addition rather than a revamp.

  5. Heh heh… I see where you’re coming from. I still think people are interested in science – but you’re right, there is a heck of a lot of misinformation out there. That’s a whole other issue.

    I think people are interested in science and ESPECIALLY technology. I also think parents are still very interested in bringing their kids to places like RMSC. When I go to science museums around the country these places are mobbed with families. But the exhibits need to be refreshed, you need to keep growing your programs, and you need to market yourself. Heck, the Strong (museum of play) is a form of science museum… but it has taken a different angle on it.

    Interactivity may be the biggest component RMSC is missing. There is some, but not to the degree I see at museums in other markets.

    All I’m saying is I don’t see RMSC thinking much outside the box. I’d like to be proven wrong. If they did, I think people would come out in droves.

  6. True, I agree they can be a bit behind the times. They’re not alone in that, though. A few years back I took my eldest to the Franklin Institute in Philly, a building I spent most of my childhood in. I was ecstatic to see the same displays there I’d loved…until I saw they WERE the same displays, and had just been repainted…poorly.

  7. Ok, any mention of the Franklin Institute is where I get involved. I still go regularly. My grandparents always took us when we were kids. It is much of the same stuff. I think this limits the repeat visits, but Philly is such a larger market, it’s not nearly as large of a problem. I would struggle to imagine FI without the steam engines or the human heart or the electric. I’d understand if they felt they needed to jazz things up, but having the imax has done wonders for them all these years in limiting the need for redoing other programming.

  8. Matthew, don’t get me wrong, I agree wholeheartedly that the big exhibits are the heart of the place (pun intended). I just felt a lot of the smaller exhibits could use a complete refresh, rather than a repaint. The giant ball machine was in such shabby shape when we were there. And, I didn’t get to take her through Foxtrot Papa… 🙁

    But, I did get to see the best damn planetarium show at the Fels that I’ve ever seen! It was about the formation of the moon with graphics that blew even the new Cosmos away.

  9. Sorry for the delay on responding to this, but I can see your point. There are certainly smaller, non-essential exhibits that could be redone. Speaking of Philly museums, did you make it to the please touch museum? I haven’t been there in a long time, and I wonder if it’s still any good.

  10. I’ve actually never been to the Please Touch. I should really put it on our list, but the reality is our last visit down last month was the first one in almost three years, so doubtful it’ll happen soon. My wife wants to hit the Mutter first. 🙂


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